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Polar bear habitat message for the year end: 2016 Arctic ice extent same as 2010

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According to NSIDC daily sea ice interactive graph,  there was ever so slightly more ice on 31 Dec 2016 than on that date in 2010. However, the corresponding ice maps show just how differently that ice was distributed.

sea-ice-at-31-dec-2016_vs-2010_nsidc-interactive

Recall that in 2010, there was no huge die-off of polar bears attributed to reduced amounts of sea ice in the fall (or to reduced ice in summer, for that matter) because there was no catastrophic die-off at all.

NSIDC Masie ice charts show just how different the distribution of ice was in 2010 at 31 December compared to 2016 at the end of the year (2010, Day 365).

Here is 2010 at day 365 (extent 12.9 mkm2):

masie_all_r00_v01_2010_365_4km-cropped

For some reason, Masie ice images were unavailable for the last day of the year but below is the one for the next day (2017, Day 1), 1 January 2017 (also 12.9 mkm2):

masie_all_zoom_4km-2017-jan-1

Compared to the 2010 map above, there is much more ice this year in eastern Canada than in 2010, much less in the Barents Sea north of Norway.

Take-home message: Absolute extent numbers don’t tell the whole story about polar bear habitat changes from year to year.

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